Sabotage has been blamed for a serious power outage which brought trains in large parts of Northern Germany to a standstill – with suspicion naturally falling on Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Volker Wissing, the country’s Transport Minister, said authorities were investigating “sabotage acts on the cable network” and trying to identify the unknown perpetrators.
Long-distance, regional and cargo trains serving the northwestern states of Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony and Bremen was halted for roughly three hours on Saturday morning after the apparently deliberate damage of communication system cables, which allow radio contact and data transmission between trains and the railway operating centre.
Describing the “deliberate and malicious” acts, Mr Wissing said: “We know that cables have been cut at two sites.” He was, however, careful not to apportion blame.
Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s national rail operated, said the stoppages had been caused by a “technical fault on the line”, adding: “The reason for that is the failure of the digital train radio communication system.”
The problems were resolved by 11am, but DB warned further service cancellations and disruptions were possible.
Despite Mr Wissing’s reticence, Bild, Germany’s most popular newspaper, reference an internal document from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), which has undertaken an early analysis of the incident, tentatively suggesting that an act of “state-ordered sabotage would be conceivable”.
The report highlighted the “widely separated crime scenes” where cables were cut, in Herne, in North Rhine-Westphalia in the west, and Berlin in the east, 335 miles away.
“The question is whether we are dealing with sabotage by foreign powers.
Because the Nord Stream attacks “pointed to the Kremlin”, “we can’t rule out that Russia could also be behind the attack on the rail services,”Mr Hofreiter added.
Referring to the ongoing war following Putin’s invasion on February 24, he said: “Maybe both are warning shots because we support Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, speaking yesterday, German armed forces Major General Carsten Breuer, said “every substation, every power plant, every pipeline” was a possible target
Interior Minister Nancy Feaser tweeted: “We have to assume intentional acts that paralysed rail traffic in northern Germany for several hours.
“Cables that are essential for rail traffic have been severed in two places.
“The background is still unclear, the federal police are investigating at high pressure.”
Security expert Peter Neumann told broadcaster RTL: “Russia does have an interest in causing a panic in Europe and in signalling that it can paralyse life quite severely.
“It was probably not amateurs or lone perpetrators, but it was something carried out by professionals.
“But of course there is no clear evidence. That’s why you have to be careful. At the moment it is still a theory.”
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)